Quick Assessments

    I was going to save this for tomorrow and then call it Tech Tuesday, but I have learned not to procrastinate.  A few weeks ago I was looking for a way to quickly assess my support class without it being formal, and without grading, and make it non threatening to students.  Once upon a time, I had seen students clickers used in the classroom and wanted them desperately.  I even went to a training, and entered every raffle I could find to win a class set.  They are expensive.  I never won.  I am glad.

    Then a few weeks ago I stumbled across Plickers.com.  It is free.  It is easy.  It is doable without a lot of training.  It has reports that I can download to record the results if I want. All I had to do it to make a class, enter my students and then print out cards–one for each student.  They look like puzzle pieces, the kids saw them and said “Bar Codes”, which I thought was brilliant.

    I didn’t read directions first, I rarely do.  I am bad that way.  So I started printing the cards on whatever paper I had, which was purple.  They print two on a page.

    The directions, when I finally looked at them said to print the cards on white card stock, laminate them on low glare or matte finish and give to the students to put in their notebook. Supposedly to carry back and forth to school and bring out when it is time to quiz.  Well, this direction was written by someone who has never taught middle school.  Any paper that leaves my class room, goes into the Bermuda Triangle and never is seen again.  And if by some miracle I did see it again, it would be crumpled, have holes poked it in, etc.  So after I reprinted the class set on white card stock, I wrote students names on the card number assigned to them and put in an envelope.  When we used them, I had a student pass them out and when we were finished I had a student collect them.     I asked a practice question “What is your favorite color” and the choices were Red, Green, Blue, Yellow.  I wanted students to practice with the cards before we actually tried assessing knowledge.  No one in the room likes yellow BTW, but they were fascinated with the cards.  So I let them use my phone and scan my card on the same question to show them how it works.

      Each side of the square or rectangle has a letter A, B, C, D,
    printed on it.  These are the answer choices, so I had to ask only multiple choice questions, but that doesn’t bother me because I was trying to get a quick assessment to see if I needed to review sorting rational numbers again or review locating rational numbers on a number line.  This saved me a lot of wasted time because I was convinced that students were having problems with the number line. 
    I put the questions on power point and had a number line with 4 points labeled and asked where the square root of 5 was located.  The other question that day was to identify which of the 4 numbers was irrational.  I added 2 questions to the library and didn’t even type the questions in since they were really on power point.  I did type in the answer choices so I couldn’t get confused (I’m confused a lot).  I read the question and the answers and asked the students to look at their cards and pick the answer and hold that side of the card up toward the ceiling.  Then I took out my cell phone where I had the app and scanned all the cards.  It tells me when I have scanned all the cards, I had 21 students in the room and it kept a running total of how many I had scanned.  If I missed someone, I scanned again.  We played with it a bit, to see how far away I could stand, students did need to be reminded to keep their fingers off the dark portion of the card.  Then I immediately could see the results on my phone.  
    95% of the students got the number line problem correct, but only 40% could identify an irrational number, so I was really wrong. But instead of wasting time, either reviewing or grading a formal quiz, we quickly moved on after the quiz results.  The kids liked it, they thought of it as a game, so they were relaxed and comfortable instead of being stressed about taking a test or quiz.  And recently when I asked them to do a quick write and tell me what they wanted to see in the classroom to help them learn, one fourth of the class said the “game where we held up the cards, because I felt smart that day”.  I have used this several times since, mainly with my support classes.  It’s a great way to check the warm up answer or to do an exit ticket.  I am in favor of anything that saves time and gives results.  And this did.

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